Josef Anton Bruckner was born on September 4, 1824 in
the upper Austrian town of Ansfelden. His father was a
schoolteacher and church organist, and Bruckner's
initial studies followed similar lines. When Bruckner
was 13, his father died, and he enrolled in the church
school at St. Florian (some ten miles from Linz) as a
chorister. There, he studied organ, piano, and music
At the age of 16, he entered a teacher-training school
in Linz, and began work as a schoolteacher at St.
Florian in 1845. He became the cathedral organist in
1848. At St. Florian he began to compose sacred music.
In 1855, he went to Vienna to formally study harmony
and counterpoint at the Vienna Conservatory under
Professor Simon Sechter. The next year, he became the
cathedral organist in Linz, and began studies in
orchestration with Otto Kitzler, a cellist who
introduced Bruckner to Wagner's operas.
On his own, Bruckner assiduously studied the music of
Renaissance Italian polyphonic masters such as
Palestrina and German Baroque composers, especially
J.S. Bach. He completed his studies with Sechter in
1861, and began to make a name for himself as a
composer and an improviser at the organ. He moved to
Vienna in 1868 to take appointments as the Emperor's
court organist and to take over Sechter's professorship
in harmony and counterpoint at the Vienna Conservatory.
Bruckner spent the 1870's and 1880's giving masterful
organ recitals and composing symphonies. Due to his
failing health, he resigned from the Conservatory in
1891, and devoted his last years to work on his ninth
symphony. This symphony, sadly, remained incomplete at
the time of his death in Vienna on October 11, 1896.
The Ave Maria is a supplication to the Virgin Mary,
based on text from the annunciation. Bruckner wrote
this seven-part setting in 1861, making it the first
major composition that he completed after five years of
arduous study with Sechter. The first segment of
Bruckner's setting contrasts the three-part women's
choir and the four-part men's choir, which unite in the
proclamation of the name of Jesus. The second segment
is for all seven parts, with a particularly effective
diminuendo as the choir asks for intervention for us
Although this piece was originally written for Voices
(SAATTBB), I arranged it for Woodwind Septet (Flute,
Oboe, English Horn, Bb Clarinet, French Horn, Bass
Clarinet & Bassoon).